6 Networking Strategies for Introverted and Socially Anxious Jobseekers
The most common word introverts and those with social anxiety use to describe networking is “overwhelming.” “Exhausting” is a close second. If the thought of networking makes your palms sweat and mouth run dry, don’t give up. Here are a few strategies to help make networking a little more bearable and productive.
- Take breaks at in-person networking events. Many people who suffer from social anxiety tend to become easily overstimulated. A networking function can expose you to a large mass of people, sounds, smells, and emotions. Be sure to take a break from everything as needed. You don’t have to be “on” every second you’re at a networking event. Sometimes the best thing you can do is go outside for some fresh air or head to the bathroom for a few moments of reprieve. Take mini-breaks to center yourself and refocus.
- Ask a friend to join you at an event. Sometimes having a little support can go a long way for someone who struggles to attend social gatherings. Being alone in a situation where you’re completely out of your comfort zone can be terrifying for some people. Simply having a familiar face at the event can help boost your confidence and make it a little easier to break the ice and engage with strangers.
- Gather intel before an event. If possible, learn as much as you can about the networking event before you attend. Contact the organizers to find out what activities will take place, how many people will attend, if there is a theme, etc. If you do contact the organizers, be sure to introduce yourself to them when you arrive. That’s one or two fewer people you’ll have to break the ice with!
- Develop a list of open-ended questions to ask. If casual conversation is difficult for you, having a list of several meaningful questions to help break the ice and engage with others can be beneficial. Many people enjoy talking about themselves, even if you don’t. Getting others to talk about themselves can help you build rapport with them. Ask about others’ professional achievements, how they came to this point in their careers, what they like and dislike about their field of choice, which skills have helped them advance the most in their careers. All of this information allows you to build rapport while also gleaning some insights that can help your job search and career advancement.
- Give yourself permission to feel nervous (or even silly). Networking rarely feels natural. It’s hard to put yourself out there. As an introvert or someone with social anxiety, you may feel that the world is judging you, but the truth is that everyone is so focused on their own problems and goals that they don’t have time to expend judging you. Try to remember that you are your own worst critic. And keep in mind that every time you attend a networking event, it should become a little easier; you’ll keep flexing your communication skills, which will ultimately help you advance your career.
- Finally, don’t just focus on in-person networking. Networking doesn’t necessarily mean physically going to a social gathering and mingling. There are plenty of networking opportunities online where you can interact with other professionals in meaningful ways. LinkedIn is a great place for networking. You can join groups and participate in group discussions, not to mention build connections and ask for introductions via people you already know. But make sure that your profile is complete before you begin networking! You need a profile that will support your goals and exude professionalism.
A fair number of jobseekers struggle with networking, even many extroverted individuals. If you’re reading this and you’re an introverted or socially anxious jobseeker, good for you! You’re taking the right steps by researching ways to work past your self-doubts and apprehensions. Try some of these strategies the next time you find yourself overwhelmed at the thought of networking.
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